The Detroit News begins its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2016 with Brad Tanner of Romeo.
Brad Tanner was an under-the-radar recruit heading into his senior season at Romeo, nowhere to be found on The Detroit News’ list of the state's top 50 players. He held exactly zero Division 1 offers, and for that matter, no Division 2 school had offered, either.
But Tanner opened some eyes during his excellent senior season, earning a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team while helping Romeo win the Division 1 state championship.
Tanner is ranked No. 15 on The News’ list of Blue Chip recruits. He received an offer and accepted it from Western Michigan a week after leading the Bulldogs to a 41-27 win over Detroit Cass Tech in the state championship game, rushing for 130 yards, including TD runs of 20, 31 and 16 yards.
When asked if he felt underrated heading into the state title game with Cass Tech having many players heading to Division 1 schools, Tanner replied: “That’s 100-percent true. Heading into that game I was irrelevant to Division 1 coaches, passed over for (Associated Press) all-state, and that upset me because I always knew I had talent, but didn’t get the respect I deserved.
“They couldn’t ignore me anymore. That jet sweep play that Coach (Jason Couch) put in for me this season, we just had crazy success with it. My line did a great job of blocking in that state title game, I got it and ran as fast as I could, made decent cuts and everything was clicking great so I could shine on the biggest stage.”
Tanner scored all three of his TDs on jet sweep plays. Also a defensive back and kick returner, he said he loves playing offense.
“I enjoy playing offense more because you get to showcase your skills more in the open field,” said Tanner who is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, and has 4.45 speed.
Tanner said he put on seven pounds of muscle during offseason training, aided by strength and conditioning coach Brandon Long.
“I got so much stronger during the summer,” said Tanner. “The last game against Lapeer my junior year I felt I was a little bit like a twig. The first game against Oxford my senior year I felt so much stronger, tougher to bring down.”
Tanner had highlights on the defensive side of the ball, as well.
“Aside from that catch against Grand Ledge (state semifinal), one of my highlights was definitely getting that interception against Dakota,” said Tanner of Romeo’s 26-14 win over MAC Red power Macomb Dakota. “Dakota was down 4 and driving and I got a 70-yard pick-6 to put the game away. It was our (senior class’) first varsity win over Dakota and that came in Week 6, and we really knew then we had the talent, the weapons to go all the way.”
As for "that catch against Grand Ledge," Tanner made a one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone on a 15-yard pass from Paul Hurley to pull the Bulldogs even at 14 in the 48-21 state semifinal win in a snowstorm. He also scored on a 39-yard run in the fourth quarter. In a 40-29 regional title win over Detroit Catholic Central, Tanner had a 63-yard kickoff return leading to one touchdown and an interception return leading to another score.
For the season, Tanner rushed for 831 yards and 16 TDs and had 34 receptions for 564 yards and eight TDs. He also had 51 tackles from his secondary spot, breaking up 26 passes.
After Romeo’s first state football championship in school history, coaches from Western Michigan and Ball State came calling.
Tanner made the trip to Kalamazoo with teammate, linebacker / tight end Mitch Heimbuch – also a member of The News Dream Team – who was a WMU commit.
“Mitch and I drove up to Kalamazoo after Coach Fleck invited me and Mitch was in the room with me when he gave me the offer,” Tanner said. “It was huge. Coach Fleck is such an energetic guy. Coach Fleck likes to play freshmen and he wants me at safety. I’m excited.
“I guess God’s plan worked out for me. I just had to wait and continue to work hard to make things happen. It was a great senior year, one to definitely remember.”